Yesterday's Red and White game was a wide open affair enjoyed by most who attended, except maybe for the goaltenders. Just a few seconds into the contest, Eric Staal stole the puck away from Tuomo Ruutu and skated in alone to make it 1-0, giving fans just a sampling of what was to come.
After all was said and done, the final score was 10-7 and the young forwards who were battling each other for jobs, all made cases for themselves.
Chris Terry, Zac Dalpe, (Drayson Bowman), and Riley Nash each had a pair of goals. Zach Boychuk, Jiri Tlusty, and Brett Sutter had goals. Gregory Hofmann raised some eyebrows with some brilliant passing. All in all, the offense looked very good, but there wasn't much intensity shown by the defense, (which is pretty normal in a scrimmage like this one.)
When Paul Maurice was asked after the game if he was concerned at all about the defense, he just shook his head and smiled. "No, not at all," he said. "There's going to be enough focus on it by time we're finished up here, we'll be much better at it."
The coach went on. "You know what? You want to know that you're able to put the puck in the net too and you don't want it to be Staal all the time."
The team certainly proved that they could put the puck in the net.
After the contest, Greg Hofmann and Riley Nash were both praised by the coach, who noted that both had improved their games, Nash, since last year's training camp, and Hofmann since they last saw him at prospect camp.
When asked if there were any surprises out there, the coach replied, "no."
"The players we thought would be good in this game were, and nobody moved themselves in any direction, one way or the other."
A couple of players who are new to the Canes played and they had some good moments as well. In the third period, Anthony Stewart took a pass from Jeff Skinner and tipped it in the net for a score. I asked Stewart how it felt out there, so early yet in the season.
"Well, it didn't start out too well. I might have been a bit shell-shocked out there and it took awhile to get the legs. It was a pretty high intensity scrimmage and we came out pretty fast and loose, but once we got into the game a bit, we got into a groove and finished off strong which is the main thing."
Stewart was on a line with Skinner and Ruutu. He said that it took a bit to find the proper timing with his linemates.
"It was our first time out there, so our timing was a little off on our breakouts. But once we got the puck in stride and the puck down low, we were gelling pretty good. Like I think our first shift in the second there, when we got the puck in deep, had a big hit, were scrambling in front of the net, and we ended up getting a goal."
It's obvious that Skinner will be one of the go-to guys in that situation. I asked him if he had been working on any new moves over the offseason.
"Yeah, over the summer I wanted to improve on that. But obviously, a lot of it is mental. That part has to come on it's own when the time comes. But physically, you work on your shot, you work on your hands, and on different sort of breakaway scenarios." He went on. "Yeah, I've been working on it a little bit and hopefully it pays off.
Look for mostly younger players for the preseason game in Buffalo tonight. We'll have a game preview up with lineups and more information early in the afternoon. (The game will be streamed online by the Sabres. More info to come.)